Monday, December 21, 2009

The Midnight Scream

Exactly 45 minutes ago a bloodcurling scream rang out through the frigid night. Rushing to the window, I saw scores of Columbia students hanging out of their dorm windows, arms flailing, mouths agape. It was a surreal, horrifying spectacle.

Oh yeah, I realized, as the melodramatic keening continued, looping into arias, traumatizing the winter air. The Midnight Scream.

The Midnight Scream, a biannual ritual, typically takes place the night before finals commences but I understand from Jody, Middle Babe's friend who is currently sitting on our dog-chewed red leather couch, that the test schedule got a bit screwed up this semester and the Midnight Scream is towards the end of exams.

No matter. It is a quirky, oddly-reassuring thing to witness: this witty expression of exasperation and panic in the face of finals. This expression of solidarity in the face of stress. This communal ritual of catharsis.

"Today is the greatest day of my life," proclaimed Middle Babe to me last week, the day after her last final. It had been an intense semester for her, having switched in her junior year to a philosophy major. I recall when Big Babe was a Columbia student and participant in the Midnight Scream, not so very long ago. I make a mental note to drop him an email about hearing the scream tonight.

Or perhaps I'll tell him in person when I visit him in Berlin in three weeks' time. I can casually mention it as I unpack the goodies I have brought him from New York, which might include the following items, thoughtfully itemized by him in an email he sent me earlier; the first installment of his annual Berlin Wishlist.


  1. A study, heavy-ish coffee tamper with 49mm (2") diameter (should be easy to find at Zabars) + a thermometer for heating frothing milk (we might have one of these at home, in the drawer with all the non-silverware cutlery stuff)
  2. 6 lbs of Zabar's whole bean coffee (3 French-Italian and 3 dark espresso)(I'll write more about food later, but you know the drill - babka, lox, cheddar, melinda's etc...)
  3. The myriad dvds that have arrived to dad's office over the past two weeks: feel free to open any and all boxes. The DVDs I'd like to have close by are: Pandora's Box, Le Plaisir, La Ronde, The Earrings of Madame De..., The Seventh Seal and Last Year at Marienbad.

From the couch in the living room, Middle Babe requests a Snapple. She is wrapped in a blanket, Alfie the Pomeranian sleeping happily in her lap. Jody's snowboots are melting onto the wooden floor. Shara, visiting from England, checks information online for a train to Newark.

As for me, I'm frankly falling asleep.

The Midnight Scream, after all, was 45 minutes ago.

1 comment:

She-Ra, Princess of Power said...

just to be clear this is Ari, not Shira. i haven't figured out how to sign on. my comment:
thank your for immortalizing the Midnight Scream. Once again, i slept right through it!